He says, "The creation of the modern public sphere by the colonialist did promise conditions for the realisation of these rights. These enabling conditions prompted Dalit-Bahujan leaders to start the self-respect movement that primarily sought to contest caste in civil society. Mainstream nationalists of all political shades were either indifferent or completely opposed to self-respect movement. They were generally reluctant to take up the caste issue, as they, including Gandhi, wanted to avoid any fragmentary impact on the nationalist movement. The mainstream nationalist response was directed against the colonial configuration of power. The Dalit-Bahujan response was primarily directed against the local configuration of power — capitalism and Brahminism. The Dalit-Bahujan perspective, thus, offers a critique of both orientalism and apologists for colonialism. Within this framework, they argued as to how Hindutva and even mainstream nationalists can justify their fight against their inferior treatment at the hands of the orientalist while the latter themselves sought to inferiorise Dalits and shudra masses."
Yet, he argues the Dalit Bahujan leaders did not abandon the fight against British colonialism's rapacious character either. "However, Dalit-Bahujan leaders did not disempower Dalits and Bahujan masses by divesting power from them to the benevolence of the British colonialists. This was evident from their critique of the British Raj that they offered from time to time. They often severely criticised the British for their callousness and insincerity in responding to Dalit questions."
In my opinion, Prof Gopal Guru has a well articulated point. From the perspective of the teeming millions of India subjugated to the throes of crass and iniquitous casteism, the issue and notion of "self-respect" was greater in importance than "self-rule" (the main "muddha" of the mainstream nationalist movement), even if it didn't result in the leaders of the "self-respect" movement ending up buttressing the pro-British line. In contrast, they were equally anti-imperialist, but articulated their protest against colonialism not by straitjacketing every issue within the "self-rule is paramount" paradigm. If "Swaraj was their birth right", self-respect and dignity were rights of paramountcy themselves. The British encounter, in its own "unintended" ways, brought about tenets of liberalism (themselves a result of the Enlightenment) to the dark annals of Indian society. There is a lot of truth in this argument.
Yet, this doesn't absolve Manmohan Singh's speech "extolling" "good governance" by the British. I would still continue in Prof Patnaik's 'Dr Singh is a neoliberal intellectual" vein. If Dr Singh had the gumption to speak the language of Phule and Ambedkar in his speech at Oxford, it would have made sense, but what Dr Singh said in Oxford can still not be interpreted in the Ambedkarite context.